On a cold, wet and windy day, VIP and I dropped the kids off (thanks mum & dad) and headed to our neighbouring county of Surrey to enjoy an overnight stay at The White Horse in Dorking.
Why Dorking? Well, I can't recall visiting the town before and VIP (who had been there years before we met) suggested I'd appreciate its quaintness and the plethora of interior and antique shops.
Plus it's always nice to get a change of scenery every now and then isn't it? Despite the persistent rain, I was pleasantly surprised; Dorking is one of those commuter towns that has kept its original charm – and, as VIP hinted, some of its original shops as well.
You won't find a Primark or a NEXT in town; most of the shops are independents, while the chain stores (including M&S and Robert Dyas to name a couple) have done remarkably well in blending in with the rest of the High Street.
And The White Horse Hotel sits very nicely in the heart of the town.
My first impression of the three-star hotel was that it was full of character. I could say that this also extended to the hotel's lounge guests, who greeted us with big ‘hellos' as we entered – and even bigger smiles. Let's just say the drinks were flowing nicely that day!
A nose around
When we were shown our room for the night (room 38 in case you're interested), my first thought was ‘Crikey, how high is the bed?!' At just 5'1″, I have to take my height into consideration when it comes to things like beds, and I joked to the staff member that I'd need a step ladder to climb onto it.
As I later discovered, having a high bed came with its advantages; when I swung my legs out of bed in the morning, I found myself standing up straight, which was very handy indeed!
Other plus points of the room (aside from its luxury decor that offered an aesthetically pleasing mix of contemporary and traditional furniture and accessories that seemed to blend effortlessly), were complimentary water, a tea and coffee caddy (huge brownie points!) and horse-shaped biscuits!
As a former coaching inn – approximately 700 years old – the horse theme extended throughout the hotel, offering a respectful nod to the building's former use. It was lovely to see – from the art memorabilia on the walls, to horse shoe coat hooks – and my favourite, saddles for seats at the hotel's bar – I appreciated every little detail – and could see that a lot of careful thought and planning had gone into the recent £4million renovation.
The only other thing that I'd say about the room was that, despite its comfortable and luxurious surroundings, it didn't offer the largest of spaces. Still, VIP and I weren't spending all night in our room – it was time to go and eat!
To dine for…
The White Horse's restaurant, The Dozen, offers an informal dining and deli concept and was my sort of place. It was fancy without being pretentious and I felt relaxed wearing jeans, boots and a smart shirt.
Being comfortable has become more of a priority for me as I've entered the naughty forties – and I was being naughty that night by indulging in the restaurant's delicious grub. The only additional improvement I could have made was to wear elasticated trousers, but I think you can only get away with that in your 60s and beyond…
So, VIP had Ham Hock for starters, while I skipped starters in favour of a main and a dessert. My burger, complete with crispy French fries, was delicious, while my second course – white chocolate raspberry mousse was even more divine.
But the highlight of the meal was probably VIP's cheese board. The waitress popped over to our table to talk through each of the locally-produced cheeses; it seemed that each one had an interesting story behind it and it was great to see that the staff were really passionate about supporting local businesses. And of course VIP said the cheese board was ‘spot on' (his words not mine).
I have to also mention the interiors. In case you hadn't noticed from some of my previous blog posts, I have a bit of a soft spot for interiors.
And I was very appreciative of how The White Horse Dorking was kitted out; from glass-top coffee tables that housed magazines, to the industrial style lamps complete with on-trend LED filaments that offered a romantic glow; whoever designed the interiors knew exactly the look that would suit.
If my night’s sleep was anything to go by, The White Horse is worth more than its three stars as the bed was super comfy. Fortunately, I didn't need a step ladder to climb onto it, but I did have to take a running jump to get onto it which added to the fun factor.
VIP and I managed a perfectly timed meal – and we were just in time to watch Friday night's Gogglebox in bed. I remember thinking how comfortable I was – and wishing that every Friday night could be like this. We had escaped the washing up, the tidying up and the kids' fighting…I was in my element.
And then I remembered that VIP had told me the hotel was haunted – and it was the one time when I didn't mind putting up with his snoring as long as he was next to me. Alas, the only thing that went bump in the night was my elbow meeting his ribs in a bid to shush him up.
Given the hotel's long history, you'd expect there to be plenty of stories – not only of ghosts but of famous people having stayed there – and there were. One of whom was Charles Dickens who apparently penned some of The Pickwick Papers at The White Horse. I wondered if he had stayed in room 38 too. Well, the equivalent of room 38 all those years ago.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at The White Horse – and yes, I'd stay there again in a heartbeat. They've done a remarkable job with the renovations, making the decor warm and inviting.
But what impressed me most of all was the staff of The White Horse; we were offered warm smiles and pleasant chat all round, plus they really knew their stuff when it came to the property's history – and the fact that they'd taken a keen interest in the hotel's roots speaks volumes.
When you can talk passionately about your place of work, it shows that the hotel invests just as much in its staff as it does its guests – and who wouldn't want to work for a place like that?
Things you should probably know about The White Horse Dorking…
- B&B rates start from £119 per night in one of the 77 en-suite bedrooms.
- If the hotel car park is full, there's a car park a couple of minutes' walk from the hotel – and you can use the app Ringo to pay for your parking.
- The hotel has a great offer on for Friday night – you can stay overnight for just £50 if you spend a minimum of £50 spent in the adjoining The Dozen restaurant.
- The White Horse in Dorking is part of Bespoke Hotels.
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